Summary: Explains course activities, policies, and recommendations.


Grading policy

I will use the following scheme as a base for weighting grades for individual activities in the final grade:

Exercises & discussion questions
Midterm and final exam

I do not believe in "grading on a curve", especially in such a small class! I would be very pleased if you all mastered the material and earned A's.

Learning activities

This class meets twice per week, on Monday and Wednesday from 2:15 to 4:05 p.m. Although this is nominally a lecture class, don't expect much lecturing.  Our class time will be spent discussing important concepts and practicing new techniques.

To help us all prepare for class, you will complete readings and exercises before class. A series of investigations and class exercises will allow you to practice new skills, while a group project will allow you to apply what you've learned. Finally, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your learning in a midterm and a final exam.


Because our class is very small, we need everyone's active participation in every class. It will be very obvious who is there and who isn't. One unexcused absence (your "oops" day) will have no effect on your participation score. Missing 2-3 classes will reduce your participation score by 10-20 points. Missing 4-5 classes will reduce your participation grade by 35-50 points. Missing 6 or more classes (that's three full weeks) without being excused will result in a 0 for participation and reduce your final grade by a full letter.

To have your absence count as excused, you must either (a) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances of your absence from Health Services or Student Affairs, or (b) contact me to make suitable arrangements at least a week in advance. In particular, students on sports teams should provide me with their game schedules as soon as possible.

Because I care about you, if you do miss class unexpectedly, I would appreciate a quick call or email as soon as you are able. Don't be surprised if I email to make sure you are OK.

When you do miss class, it is your responsibility to talk to a classmate about what you missed and then to see me to discuss any further questions or concerns.

Reading responses

Reading assignments are posted in the weekly schedule. I expect you to complete reading assignments before class. You may want to try using the SQ3R method:

I will pose some questions or exercises for each reading. These are intended both as a check that you have done the reading, and as guidance for me in determining how to best use our class time. Three questions you can typically expect to see: (1) What was the most important or surprising thing you learned? (2) What was the most confusing part of the reading? (3) What question(s) do you want to discuss in class? 

You should email me your responses by 11 a.m. before class. I will use your responses to focus our time in class---so, no late work will be accepted. 

Any response showing a reasonable effort will earn 1 point. No response (or a very superficial response) will earn 0 points.

I expect there to be 20-25 required reading responses. You may miss up to two responses and still receive full credit for the final grade. I may also give extra credit for exceptionally thorough or insightful responses.


You will have the opportunity to practice new skills through occasional investigations. Most investigations will include some in-class component as well as well as an artifact (e.g., a poster, prototype, or report) to be completed either before or after class.

Investigations will typically be individual, in contrast to the project. Each assignment will include collaboration guidelines and evaluation criteria.


The major work (and major credit) component for the course is the semester-long team project. It involves defining, analyzing, specifying, designing, prototyping, evaluating, and iterating the interaction design for the user interface of an interactive system. The purpose of the project is to give you realistic experience with all steps involved in developing a significant user interaction design.

Because the class is very small, all students will work on one project team. All development activities, including writing the deliverables, are team activities. All team members are to participate in all development activities. Do not divide the overall process among the team members. Although this might seem like a more efficient way to proceed, this leads to a kind of specialization that poses a barrier to each person learning the overall process.

Each member of the team is expected to contribute equally to each part of the project. It is possible that the most difficult part of the project is working ell together in a group. Be aware of possible group problems and be ready to solve them.

The major components of the project are as follows:

Product concept statement
Contextual inquiry and analysis
Requirements and bridging artifacts
Usability specifications, prototype, and demo
Formative usability evaluation
Final presentation (Thursday Extra)

To ensure that each team member is given a project grade reflecting individual contributions, the final project assignment is a Team Member Evaluation. Each team member must INDIVIDUALLY turn in a paper copy of the confidential Team Member Evaluation Form as a required deliverable to report the relative effort/contribution of each person on your project team (including yourself) over the whole semester.

This form is not optional. Be professional and give a careful rating. The ratings on these forms (moderated as necessary by the instructor) will be converted into weightings to convert team project grades into individual student project grades.


You will have opportunities to demonstrate what you have learned through take-home two exams, a midterm and a final. The midterm will be due Friday, March 11; the final will be due at noon on Tuesday, May 17, at the end of our official final exam time slot. We will discuss the form of these exams as the dates approach.

Because I intend the exams to assess your own individual understanding of the material, collaboration on exams is not permitted. You should not talk to anyone (except me) about take-home exams before they are due. You should not discuss the problems on the exam, nor your answers. You should not give any information about your progress on the exam (e.g., which problems you have completed or which you found difficult), and neither should you ask others about their progress.  If you have any doubt about what is and is not permissible, ask me.

Work space

SCI 3818 will be available to us as a dedicated lab space this semester. This means that you will be able to store project artifacts in the lab and leave things on the walls between classes. However, remember that this is our classroom, and keep the work space tidy.  Two large lockers are available for storing supplies and artifacts when they are not being used.

You will receive the combination for SCI 3818 from Mr. Stone sometime early in the semester.

As the project progresses, it may be that my research lab (SCI 3807) would be a better work space for some activities. If so, I will give you the combination to my lab, subject to your agreement to my lab policies.

Academic honesty

I expect you to follow the highest principles of academic honesty. Among other things, this means that any work you turn in should be your own or should have the work of others clearly documented. However, when you explicitly work as part of a group or team, as on the project, you need not identify the work of each individual (unless I specify otherwise).

You should never give away answers to assignments or examinations. You may, however, work together in developing solutions for most assignments. When working on examinations, you should not use other students as resources.


Work is due at the stated date and time. Late work will not be accepted except by negotiation with the instructor. Why? Most of the work in this class either is collaborative---in which case your classmates and I need to know what is going wrong so we can all make adjustments---or is part of preparing for class---in which case it needs to be done on time to be useful.

If exceptional circumstances prevent timely submission of your work, you must either (a) contact me to make suitable arrangements when the assignment is handed out, or (b) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances from Health Services or Student Affairs.

Absolute deadline: All work must be turned in by Friday, May 20 at 5 p.m.

Getting help

You can get help from me, either during office hours or by appointment. I really enjoy working with students one-on-one. 


If you have any disabilities that require accommodations, let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to find accommodations that meet your learning needs. You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to Joyce Stern in the the Academic Advising Office, located on the third floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702).

Janet Davis (

Created January 17, 2011
Last revised January 21, 2011
Thanks to Pardha Pyla and Rex Hartson for sharing the syllabus from their course.